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IDA seeks a path for its RFT east-west corridor
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The Effingham Industrial Development Authority is looking at its options on a proposed east-west corridor through its massive Research Forest Tract.

IDA officials have had meetings with Rincon city representatives to discuss where the corridor could connect to Highway 21 — giving the tract a possible route from Highway 21 to the planned Effingham Parkway.

“What we’ve been trying to accomplish is a connection from 21 to the east-west corridor,” said IDA Chairman Chap Bennett, who is also Rincon’s representative on the board. “We’ve met multiple times with the city about where and how to accomplish that.”

Rincon City Manager Michael Phillips pledged the city’s support in the east-west corridor that will bisect the Research Forest tract.

“Rincon is ready to jumpstart the east-west corridor by the end of the year,” he said.

The city has proposed having Tract D, the westernmost parcel of the Research Forest Tract that borders the city, annexed in. Annexation also could require the IDA to come up with planned unit development concepts.

But who would permit what to go in that tract, if it is annexed, is also a question.

“I’m not opposed to building the road,” said IDA member Charles Hinely. “I’m opposed to someone building the road and having control over what goes in there.”

The IDA has been approached by several interests who want to put in a rail spur and begin building warehouses. But the IDA has been cool to that idea.

“Tract D is probably our most marketable piece of property,” Bennett said.

He also floated the possibility of selling that parcel to an industrial developer at some point and then putting those proceeds to use in developing the rest of the Research Forest Tract.

Norfolk Southern Railroad also has reviewed plans for Research Forest Tract and has proposed building a connecting line between its rail line and CSX’s line. Henry said several site selectors have told him to show that possible connection between the two rail lines.

As part of its schematics, Norfolk Southern included a 3 million square foot building on Tract B that could be dual served by rail as a possibility.

“That is virtually unheard of,” IDA CEO John Henry said. “We’ve got something you won’t find anywhere else in the Southeast. Nobody else has anything like that.”

Thomas and Hutton engineer Chance Raehn said having a connection between the two rail lines will help with infrastructure and lure industrial prospects.

“I can’t tell you how many have come in the last nine to 12 months and want dual rail,” he said.

There are about 600 acres on Tract B itself, making it as large as the remaining land on the Pooler megasite, according to Henry. Getting it ready for a potential megasite suitor is expected to take several years.

“We’ve got time to sit on it and work toward that,” Henry said.

The IDA also is trying to position itself as a competitor to its neighbors, and Henry said they hope to capitalize on the announcement earlier this month of Mitsubishi Power Systems coming to the Pooler megasite.

“Interest has gone up tremendously in the last few months,” he said. “We’re in great competition with Chatham, Bryan and Liberty (counties). Every time we send out an information package, they’re getting one from Chatham, Bryan and Liberty.”